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Metabolix announces opening of production plant for Mirel bioplastics

By Katie Nichol , 16-Mar-2010

Massachusetts-based bioscience company, Metabolix, has announced that the first commercial-scale production plant for Mirel bioplastics is now in operation.

Mirel is a family of sustainable bio-plastics made from fermented corn sugar that are also completely biodegradable.

Mirel is being commercialized through Telles, a joint venture between Metabolix and the agricultural processor, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM).

Production plant constructed in Iowa

Constructed by ADM adjacent to its wet corn mill, the production plant in Clinton, Iowa was completed in the fourth quarter of 2010, with investment in the facility remaining within the initial guidance of $300m.

Initial shipments of the product are expected to reach core customers within a month, according to Metabolix.

“Successful startup of this plant is a major milestone for Metabolix and the Telles business. We will now have an operating world scale source to supply and can begin to satisfy the significant market demand for the product,” Metabolix CEO Richard Eno said in a conference call.

Although it is capable of producing up to 110 million pounds of Mirel annually, production is expected to remain relatively low for the next few quarters until production processes are optimized and demand increases through the acquisition of new customers, according to Eno.

Microbial fermentation system

The bioplastics are produced by means of a microbial fermentation system, which combines proprietary engineered microbes with sugar and other materials in a fermenter.

The microbes digest the sugar and produce the bioplastics within their cells. The bioplastics are then separated from the microbes and formulated into Mirel resins for commercial sale, according to the company.

Mirel is heat and moisture resistant with high durability, and can replace many petroleum-based plastic materials including styrenics, ABS and polycarbonate.

In cosmetics, the material can be used in various packaging application including lipsticks, compacts and jars.

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